Book Review: Too Good to Be Real by Melonie Johnson

Too Good to Be Real

Author: Melonie Johnson
Publisher: St. Martins Griffin (July 6, 2021)
Paperback, 352 pages
Romance, Adult Contemporary Romance


She plans to prove there’s a dozen reasons why life isn’t like a romantic comedy, only to discover the one reason it is…

While her friends wish for meet cutes worthy of their favorite rom-coms, Julia is ready to give up on love. Swiping right has replaced getting swept off your feet and good old-fashioned romance has become, well, old-fashioned.

A writer for a popular website, love becomes the last thing on her mind when impending layoffs threaten her job. As Julia searches for the ultimate pitch to impress her boss, she stumbles upon a resort offering guests a chance to live out their romantic comedy dreams. Real life dating is so bleak, who wouldn’t want to spend a week in a fantasy rom-com world with your best friends?

At the resort, Julia literally falls into a not-quite-meet-cute involving an aggressive seagull and an adorably awkward guy named Luke who is also participating in the rom-com experience. Julia hides the fact she is there to do a story, but Luke harbors a few secrets of his own. Among further encounters with thieving seagulls, a gaggle of corgis, kisses in the rain, and even a karaoke serenade, their feelings deepen quickly. But could their love be real when they haven’t been honest about their true identities? Once the fantasy is over, can they have a relationship in the real world?


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Is this book a total rip-off of the movie Austenland? Sort of. Did I enjoy it anyway? Well… sort of.

Look, I’m going to be real: If you can’t name a dozen+ hit rom-com movies off the top of your head, know some of the main actors who tend to appear in said rom-coms, if you don’t have a favorite Chris or opinions on Colin Firth vs Colin Farrell – then you probably won’t like this book. It is SATURATED in rom-com references, and if you’re not at least moderately immersed on rom-com culture than you’re just going to spend a lot of time going “huh?” I love rom-coms, but I don’t sit around quoting them (OK, except for The Princess Bride, which is totally a rom-com but also somehow about the only one NOT mentioned in this book?) and the constant rom-com references got rather annoying even for me.

Another thing that sort of bugged me? The references to Mrs. Weatherfork’s corgis seemed so wrong sometimes. At one point she carries a corgi under each arm! Um, was my childhood corgi just EXTREMEMLY fat, or are her corgis just puppies? Because no way. There are also repeated references about them being yappy little dogs, and jumping up into laps and things. They’re smaller dogs, but they’re SOLID, and their short little legs aren’t made for leaping. We had to build our corgi stairs so he could get up on the bed. It’s not a big thing, but it just kept yanking me out of the story.

Still, when it wasn’t being completely stalled out and cluttered with Julia and her friends dropping rom-com vomit everywhere, there were some really great moments in this book. I adore Julia and Luke and all of their completely ridiculous rom-com moments. I love a mistaken identities trope, and both Luke and Julia are pretending to be someone that’s not quite the whole truth to who they really are. SURELY this won’t come back to blow up in anyone’s face… 😉 The entire concept of a rom-com retreat is so fun, I would totally go! I’m not quite sure how Luke’s role as a computer programmer comes into play at what’s basically a giant LARP though? It sounds like he designed some software to help with basically the scheduling of experiences, which doesn’t seem like it would be very complex… I don’t know, I sort of didn’t buy his entire role in the experience.

Another review said they were confused by all the different names once Julia and her friends arrive at the retreat, but if you’re a historical romance reader you’re already used to everyone being referred to by their name and also their title so you should have no probelems, haha. I kind of liked that they were assigned romance movie leads as their characters. (And did anyone else picture Patrick and David as Patrick Dempsey and David Duchovny? Because it did, through the entire thing!)

Despite the at times jarring and unrealistic (well, it IS a rom-com…) story elements, I enjoyed reading this book. There were a few times when I looked up from reading to find my spouse watching me, and realized I had a goofy grin on my face because of some silly thing that had just happened. Enough times that he commented “that must be a good book.” If it made me smile so much, it must be? Oh! And I don’t normally suffer from secondhand embarrassment while reading books, but BOY, this one made me do a major cringe at one point, which I realized when my spouse cracked up at the face I was making. 😀

A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.

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